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Understanding food

Science Briefs

Researchers from Aarhus University, Denmark, and the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) have analysed socio-demographic and attitudinal determinants of nutrition knowledge of food shoppers from six European countries: UK, Sweden, France, Germany, Poland, and Hungary. Main findings include social grade, country of residence and age to directly influence participants’ nutrition knowledge. Furthermore, older people, women and respondents of a higher socio-economic status showed a more active interest in healthy eating. The use of expert sources (physicians, dieticians and health associations) had only a small effect on how low or high the measured nutrition knowledge of participants in this study was.
Regular coffee drinking could lower the risk of liver cancer by up to 55%, suggests a new meta-analysis. The prevalence of liver cancer is rare in Western countries but affects considerable numbers of people in East and South East Asia.

Adding cinnamon to carbohydrate meals may slow the rise in blood sugars, claims a new study. This could be helpful for people with diabetes, or those concerned about blood sugar control.

Eating cocoa could help reduce LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, according to a Japanese intervention study.
Researchers from the Wageningen University in the Netherlands found that thinking in black and white terms when it comes to food (e.g. thinking of foods as either “good or bad”) can partly explain why the tendency to consciously control food intake is associated with more weight regain. People who follow a rigid “all or nothing” diet approach may be more likely fail to stick with their diet and tend to regain weight in the long-term.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission's in-house science service, has published a science and policy report highlighting the importance of diet and nutrition in increasing healthy life years, and promoting Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA). The report describes the main factors of AHA, focusses on under-nutrition in the elderly as both a cause and consequence of functional decline, and highlights the main research gaps.

The European population is ageing – the proportion of people older than 65 is projected to increase from 17.4% to nearly 30% by 2060. The number of people 80 years and over will triple during the same period. Supporting AHA is critical to improving the quality of life in the elderly, ensuring that individuals continue to contribute to society later in life. In this context, ‘healthy’ refers to physical, mental and social well-being and ‘active’ is the continuation of participation in civic, cultural, economic, physically active, social and spiritual affairs.

A team of researchers from eight European countries have found that a diet that is very similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with lower body weight and fat percentage in children. They also found that this diet is not common among children in Mediterranean countries. The researchers were partners in the EU-funded IDEFICS study (2006-2012), one of the largest studies to investigate health effects of a changing diet, lifestyle, and social environment and develop intervention approaches for two to ten-year olds.
Researchers from Europe and Asia have joined forces to undertake an international project regarding salt reduction among the general population. By means of a cross-sectional study, perceptions, attitudes and behaviours related to salt intake were investigated in eight developed and developing countries around the world. The study revealed that participants largely underestimated their individual salt intake and they also showed difficulties in identifying the main dietary sources of salt. Respondents further contradicted themselves as they showed low interest in salt reduction while, at the same time, such behaviour (i.e. salt reduction) was perceived as healthy and important. Based on these findings, the group of researchers offers advice in developing global intervention programmes for salt reduction, including nationally tailored strategies to engage and interest consumers.
In a review published in Food Research International, researchers at University of Milan and University of Trieste analysed the findings from several studies to exploit the effectiveness of DNA barcoding as a tool for food traceability. The review also considers other applications such as quality control and detection of commercial fraud.
Researchers at Stanford University, USA conducted a systematic review of published literature to determine if organically produced foods are safer or healthier than conventionally produced foods. Overall, the published literature does not suggest health benefits from consuming organic rather than conventional foods; nevertheless, it found that consumption of organic produce may reduce exposure to pesticides and consumption of organic pork and chicken may reduce exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
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The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which communicates science-based information on nutrition and health, food safety and quality, to help consumers to be better informed when choosing a well-balanced, safe and healthful diet.

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This site was last updated 26/09/2016
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